Kissing spines

Veterinary advice should be sought before applying any treatment or vaccine.

Kissing Spines

Overriding Dorsal Spinous Processes (ORDSP)

Overriding dorsal spinous processes (ORDSP), also known as kissing spines, is a common condition affecting the horse's back. It occurs where two or more of the vertebrae in the horse’s back touch or overlap. When these vertebrae rub against one another, they cause low grade inflammatory changes in the edges of the bone where they meet.

Kissing spines occurs in horses of all breeds, however it has been found to be more prevalent in thoroughbreds. Kissing spines also occurs throughout all disciplines, and is thought to be associated with poor conformation or complications occurring during development.

There is a wide range of clinical signs associated with horse behavior, on the ground and under saddle.

Horse Behaviors Associated w/ Kissing Spine Back Pain

Behavioral Signs# Horses
Hollow backed67
Back sore to touch61
Hard to get on bit61
Behind the leg61
Slow to warm up61
Stuff in one direction56
Trouble in gait transitions49
Girthy43
Change in head carriage43
Brushing hypersensitivity40
Intermittent hind toe dragging39
Refusing or chipping fences; jumping flat39
Bucking33
Trouble in canter31
Rearing25
Head tossing18
Running past barrels18
Kicking out17
Excessive shying10
Rushing fences6

Source: T Turner, 2011

Some horses do not show any signs of back pain, but yet still can have overriding spinous processes in their backs.

Symptoms

Hollow back
67%
Back sore to touch
61%
Hard to get on the bit
61%
Behind the leg
61%
Slow to warm up
61%
Stiffness in one direction
56%
Trouble with gait transitions
49%
Change in head carriage
43%
Girthy
43%
Brushing hypersensitivity
40%
Refuses or chips jumping fences
39%
Intermittent hind toe dragging
39%
Bucking
33%
Trouble in canter
31%
Rearing
25%
Head tossing
18%
Running past barrels
18%
Kicking out
17%
Excessive shying
10%
Rushs fences
6%

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Physical exam
  • Radiography
  • Thermography

Treatment

TherapiesDetails
Methylprednisolone acetate injections
SurgeryInterspinous ligament desmotomy (ISLD) using Mayo scissors
Cold therapy
Rest
Hand walking
Exercise therapyDaily mounted and controlled sessions focusing on exercises that stretch and flex the horse's back; some of these include trotting in a long and low frame and over ground poles and cavellettisT Turner, 2011
Physiotherapy
Antiinflammatories
Mesotherapy
Shockwave therapy
Exercise
Saddle refitting

Scientific Research

General Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Poor conformation

Commonly Affected Breeds

Thoroughbred icon